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Oakland FBI Raids Also Targeted This Powerful Family. Here’s What We Know

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U.S. postal inspectors check documents at a home tied to David Duong, one of the multiple properties searched by law enforcement that included residences to members of a politically connected family who run the citys contracted recycling company, California Waste Solutions, in Oakland on June 20, 2024. (Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Updated 9 a.m. Saturday

The FBI raid of Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao’s home on Thursday morning coincided with searches at three other properties around the city — all of them linked to one powerful, politically connected family.

Known for their recycling company, which serves as the city’s exclusive zero waste contractor, the Duong family is also heavily involved in Oakland’s business and political realms, with deep ties to Thao.

The waterfront offices of their company, California Waste Solutions, were raided along with the homes of CEO David Duong and his son Andy. Although the FBI has not disclosed what it is investigating, such search warrants require law enforcement agents to show they have probable cause to believe there is evidence of a federal crime at the location.


Also, the family and its company have faced allegations of ethics violations in the past, drawing the attention of political watchdogs for their close relationships with political figures and accusations that they funneled tens of thousands of dollars through straw donors to political campaigns, including Thao’s.

Here’s what we know about the Duongs and their company so far.

How the Duongs arrived in Oakland

According to David, he and 15 family members came to San Francisco after fleeing the Vietnam War by small boat, spending two years in a refugee camp in the Philippines before eventually landing in the city in 1979.

He told KQED in 2017 that when they first arrived, he and his siblings would take walks around the Financial District, sorting recyclables out of people’s trash waiting to be collected on city streets — the start of the family business, he said.

After a few years, the family saved enough to buy a small recycling plant in West Oakland, and in 1992, they started Cal Waste.

Under the continuing leadership of David and his siblings Kristina and Victor, who are also the majority stockholders of the company, Cal Waste has grown to the largest waste management company in Northern California, according to its website, with multiple plants and over 300 employees in Oakland and San José.

Since 2015, the company has had the “exclusive right to provide Oakland residents residential recycling collection services,” according to a City Council ordinance.

Over the past decade, the Duongs have become powerful political players in Oakland. They’ve also found themselves in some hot water with the city.

A campaign finance investigation into the company

In August 2019, California’s Fair Political Practices Commission launched an investigation into Andy Duong, David Duong’s son and a purchasing agent and public relations officer for the family company, along with Cal Waste, accusing him and the company of using the names of others to donate to local campaign committees illegally.

In 2021, the FPPC and Oakland Public Ethics Commission published a 30-page probable cause report alleging that Cal Waste was the “true source” of at least 93 donations between 2016 and 2018 that were filed under different peoples’ names in a “campaign contribution laundering scheme,” totaling over $76,000.

Thirteen of the donations, totaling $9,900, were to Thao’s 2018 campaign for City Council.

The report concluded that probable cause exists to believe Andy and Cal Waste, or alternately, just Andy, violated the state’s Political Reform Act, which prohibits using the name of another to make a donation.

The investigation looked at donations made between 2016 and 2018, during which time the city of Oakland prohibited campaign contributions from any contractors providing services that require City Council approval. At the time, Cal Waste was involved in ongoing negotiations with the city to purchase and lease land for recycling facilities.

The FPPC investigation is pending, according to the commission’s case portal.

A warning letter from the FPPC in July 2023, addressed to David Duong and Duong Family Investments, states that the company failed to disclose its status as a major donor committee during two reporting periods in 2018, as well as “late contributions” of more than $1,000 made to a candidate committee within 90 days of an election.

An agency representative told KQED that “a warning letter from the FPPC Enforcement Division is a finding of a violation of the Political Reform Act. The penalty for violations can range from a warning letter up to $5,000 per violation.”

According to the July 2023 warning letter, an individual or entity that donates more than $10,000 is considered a major donor committee. Duong Family Investments surpassed that threshold in February 2018 and made additional contributions in the latter half of the year, neither of which were reported in a timely manner, the FPPC said.

Cal Waste slapped with overcharging lawsuit

Cal Waste first got into legal heat with Oakland in 2017, when the city filed a lawsuit alleging that the company overcharged residents for bringing recycling bins to multi-family dwellings.

Cal Waste countersued, accusing the city of miscalculating how many housing units it would service and hurting the company’s revenue.

In December 2021, the lawsuit and countersuit were settled, with Cal Waste agreeing to correct its service charges and refund all of residents’ previous overpayments. The city paid the company $1.7 million and gave it $1.5 million of cost reductions for its obligations under the city contract.

Funding an expensive — and lavish — business trip

David Duong is also president of the Vietnamese American Business Association, housed in the same office building as Cal Waste.

The business group co-sponsored a 2023 trip to Vietnam for Oakland officials — including Thao — to the tune of $12,000 per person, according to reporting from the San Francisco Chronicle. The costs included business class flights, five-star hotel stays and meals and transportation.

The association also helped plan the trip’s itinerary, which aimed to promote Oakland’s trade relations with Vietnam.

Although the office building at 1211 Embarcadero was among the locations searched by FBI agents on Thursday, a spokesperson for the FBI’s San Francisco media team could not disclose which suites within the building were raided.

Four of the five top Vietnamese American Business Association leadership positions are held by Duongs — including all three of Cal Waste’s primary owners, David, Victor, and Krista, along with Michael.

Another legal battle and more campaign donations in San José

Cal Waste has a pending lawsuit against the city of San José, where it also has a contract to collect curbside recycling for about a third of the city’s residents.

The company sued San José in April 2023, claiming the city was not doing enough to help prevent residents from putting extra trash in their recycling bins, forcing the recycler to “collect and process massive amounts of garbage at an extra cost to [Cal Waste] of tens of millions of dollars,” court filings said.

The misplaced garbage made it “impossible” to meet required recycling minimums, leading to millions of dollars worth of diversion penalties on the company, the lawsuit said. It also claims the city is discriminating against Cal Waste because it is an immigrant-owned business and treating it differently than other non-minority waste contractors.

San José has refuted the claims, contending it has done extensive work to support Cal Waste and educate residents on proper trash and recycling disposal. It also has increased the company’s annual compensation and offered financial incentives worth millions, but Cal Waste’s “historically deficient performance” has continued, the city said in a recent court filing.

The FPPC’s probe into Andy Duong and Cal Waste also includes several donations made to campaign committees in San José, including two funding City Council incumbent Tam Nguyen and Santa Clara County supervisor candidate Don Rocha in 2018.

Rocha, a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education, is a former San José City Councilmember. He told KQED he was not aware of a laundering scheme by the Duongs to donate to his campaign for supervisor in 2018.

“That was never conveyed to me or discussed with me or presented to me,” Rocha said. “I would not have accepted those checks.”

Rocha said he knows Victor Duong through his work in the public sector.

“I’ve worked at (San José) city hall on and off for 30 years. Anybody who has worked that long is going to run into him, especially if you work in city government,” he said. 

Rocha said the FPPC previously asked him for a list of who donated to his campaign for supervisor and inquired about some of them.

“And that was where it ended,” Rocha said, noting he hasn’t heard from the FPPC since.

Nguyen declined to comment when reached.

Ongoing political donations

Despite the open FPPC investigation, the family is still very much involved with political campaigns. This year, David Duong has donated more than $41,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $9,100 to the Democratic Party of Virginia. In total, his contributions to state and federal campaign committees are more than $100,000 since January.

Andy Duong has also contributed to multiple election campaign committees this year, racking up over $7,000 in donations.

KQED emailed Steven Churchwell, an attorney who received an FPPC warning letter on behalf of David Duong for violating campaign finance rules, to ask about the violations. 

“California Waste Solutions is aware that federal agents executed search warrants at a number of locations in Oakland yesterday related to CWS,” he said in response. “The company is fully cooperating with the government’s investigation and is confident that the government will conclude that the company and its owners were not involved in any unlawful or improper activity.”

KQED’s Joseph Geha contributed to this report.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version referred incorrectly to a pending FPPC lawsuit. The FPPC has an open investigation. In addition, a clarification was made to describe a warning letter addressed to David Duong and Duong Family Investments from the FPPC in July 2023.


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